Ben Mee sees no reason why Burnley can’t replicate their superb form over the second half of the season and push for a European place
The Clarets host Spurs at Turf Moor tomorrow night, sitting in sixth place, a point and a place better off than Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
The game marks the halfway stage of the season, with Burnley losing only four times in 18 games so far, earning the joint best defensive record in the Premier League, along with leaders Manchester City and second place United.
The stand in skipper, asked if Burnley can stay up there, said: “I don’t see why it’s not realistic, people on the outside will be doubting us, predicting our downfall, but we’re confident we can be a good side and continue doing what we’re doing. I don’t see any reason why we can’t.
“We’ve got players coming in doing jobs, we’ve changed virtually the whole back four, the keeper, lost people in midfield to injury, but there’s no reason we can’t carry on our form and pick up points where people think we can’t.
“We have some good players, good quality in the team and we work hard for each other.
“Ultimately we’re putting in performances, we all know our jobs and go out with a good framework - massive credit to the work we do on the training ground.
“We all work as hard in training as we do on match day, it’s about authenticity, you just go out there and do it, and that’s become a real thing for us, we can just go out and have clear minds and play as well as we do.”
Burnley may have surprised most pundits, as well as themselves, but Mee doesn’t feel they are over-performing: “I don’t think so, we’ve performed at a really high level, you never know here you’ll finish or what’s going to happen, we take it game by game.
“We just want to play well, I don’t think over performing is the right word.”
But while Mee believes the Clarets can stay the pace, Europe isn’t on the agenda in the dressing room just yet: “We’ve had this sort of feeling before when we were trying to win promotion from the Championship, you just take every game as it comes, you never know what’s around the corner, you want to just play every game as it is and not our targets on it.
“It’s turning into a very good season for us, we know that, we realise that, but it’s about every game as it comes.
“People will make predictions, ‘Burnley can stay there, Burnley can’t stay there’, but it doesn’t matter what people say, it’s what goes on on the pitch.
“It doesn’t affect us at all.
“We’ve not really discussed it, we’ve not discussed where we’re going to finish, it’s just every game as it comes.
“You get another win, brilliant, one step closer to a higher position, to being safe.”
Mee will be partnered by Kevin Long tomorrow night, with James Tarkowski sitting out the first of a three-match suspension.
Long helped keep two clean sheets in the wins over Watford and Stoke City before dropping out for the fit-again Mee at Brighton, and he has no doubts over the Republic of Ireland centre back’s ability at this level: “He’s had to be really patient, he’s been out on loan a few times, he’s managed to get into the Ireland squad on the back of playing last season, which has done him the world of good, a confidence boost.
“He came into the side for myself and two clean sheets is brilliant, he looked solid as a rock.
“It’s that team structure and him coming in and working hard in training every day, being able to roll out performances is credit to him.”
Mee and Long will come up against two of the best forwards in the league, if not Europe, over the next two games in Harry Kane of Spurs and Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United, and Mee added: “It’s one to look forward to definitely, I don’t see why he can’t do well against them though.”
Mee is statistically the best performing player outside of the recognised big six clubs, and he and Tarkowski have been touted for England call ups, with Poland also monitoring Tarkowski.
The former Manchester City youngster would like nothing more than to pull on the Three Lions, but is only focused on doing his job for his club: “We’d both like that, it’s an ambition, but we don’t take too much notice of what goes on, it either happens or it doesn’t.
“It’s something we both want, and it’s a case of keep playing well, keep doing what we can, and if it doesn’t happen, keep playing well for your club and doing well, and seeing how far we can take this club forward.
“I believe I missed him (Southgate) the other night against Stoke, but he’s obviously been to see a few of us, and hopefully a couple can catch his eye.”